Listening with Skeptical Ears

A few years ago, the “History” textbook I was helping my sophomore read startled me. It wasn’t overtly bad, just a subtle biased against our American Founders. Do not be fooled, there was a political agenda: the idea that our Founding Fathers were racists, cruel, chauvinists and the Constitution they wrote was inherently flawed. It was the subtle suggestion to turn away from our Founders ideologies.

I want my kids to understand the valor from our past along with the vices that we don’t want to repeat. I want them to learn about our rich heritage as Americans with the light of where we were gravely wrong.  But, I don’t want them believing a false narrative.  Understanding what is being taught to the next generation, especially with Common Core (or whatever new name we give our curriculum), is imperative.  There is a daily battle in our schools today of a false and misleading narrative. And, the sad fact is, our teachers and legislators are buying in; hook-line-and-sinker! From their very own website, the NEA “supports the Common Core State Standards Initiative as a potential means of providing access to a complete and challenging education to all children”. Their powerful lobbyist group strolls the halls of our capitol in Jefferson City every day. They convince even our Republican leaders of the evils of school choice. Republicans who run on the very platform that states: “We support efforts at the state and federal levels to adopt a fair system that grants parents the ability to help their children escape failing schools and attend schools of their choice—whether private, charter, home educated, or public.”

As I visit with legislators in an effort to expand School Choice options in Missouri, I am dumbfounded by how many “conservatives” have bought into a narrative promoted by far left ideologies of the NEA and AFT. Far left? Yes! Both groups profess a position of “non-partisan” but openly support the Democratic Party and progressive left groups. Both these organizations have moved from a simple union founded in 1857, to the 1960 union who offer collective bargaining for teachers, to what it is today. According to  OpenSecrets.org, the NEA is ranked as one of the top five contributors to political initiatives. In 2004, teachers unions gave $4.3 million but by 2016 this grew to more than $32 million.  Democrats received more than 94% of their contributions, and this fact alone should open the eyes of our conservative policymakers in Jefferson City and conservative educators throughout Missouri. What is the lefts agenda? It’s not to promote the values that we hold dear.

When an organization exerts this much influence on the American education system we must address the why’s as much as the how’s. The teachers unions are not in the business of representing students; no one should expect them to do this. NEA and AFT’s purpose is to represent the interests of the members: the teachers. But, teachers in the unions may be unwittingly supporting the ideologies of the far left leaders of these unions. Only 49% of NEA members claim affiliation with the Democratic Party, yet of the $1.1 million given in 2000, 97% went to Democrats and 3% to Republicans. Nothing is wrong with a private, non-government union holding specific opinions. However, it must be noted that the NEA employs more paid political operatives than the Democratic and Republican parties combined. And, one former President, Bob Chase makes no bones about his endorsement of a pro-homosexual video for elementary students and his support of a woman’s right to have an abortion. AFT also declares it will defend the right to abortion on demand.

It is quite confusing as I talk to my conservative legislation in Jefferson City, who just passed the  “strongest pro-life bill’ in U.S.”, why they would trust the narrative of an organization that gave almost $800,000 directly to Planned Parenthood. One that gives massive contributions to the group Media Matters whose number one priority is to correct “misinformation” of conservative media? One of their largest donations goes to America Votes who states their primary goal is to “help left-leaning groups collaborate, labor unions, environmental groups and organizations that support abortion rights and constituencies that typically lean Democratic.”  AFT contributes money to the National Coalition Against Censorship; a group defending child pornography. In 2012-13, the union gave $155,000 to a group backed by George Soros, known as the Democracy Alliance.  NEA and AFT has made no effort to disguise its support of a massive gun control campaign sending 1000’s to march in DC, and they endorse and contribute to PAC’s, too numerous to list, that support local candidates and ballot initiatives of the progressive left and Democrats. In 2018, they gave $250,000 to Amendment 1’s“Dirty” Missouri in an effort to change our state Constitution!

In my opinion, there is also a conflict in motives. The NEA has over 361 employees whose annual salaries are $100,000 or more.  In contrast, the average Missouri teacher’s salary is between $31K and $48K. In 2013, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel had a salary and compensation package of just over $411K. The 2016 NEA annual report showed a surplus of over $10million. It’s obvious the NEA and AFT fain a fight for its members, yet I am not sure the members are really the interest of the leadership and it is definitely not the students or families.

Families and students desire for school choice options are not supported by the teachers unions. The NEA actually has a resolution stating its strong opposition to educational options that give more power and responsibility to parents. Home Schooling, Vouchers, ESA’s and other Tax Credits, more parental options, and a strong resistance to charter schools are all listed in their resolution. It is interesting that  a survey conducted by Knowledge Networks reported that when given the choice, public school teachers would not send their own children to public schools. Their lobbyist attack reform initiatives and even makes up (or take out of context) statistics when testifying before legislative committees. Recently, I sat in one Senate hearing where a false narrative was being given.  Senator Tony Luetkemeyer (District 34) asked her to site where she got her “facts”. This lobbyist stated it was “common knowledge” and when the Senator gave definitive contradictory facts, she just shrugged. Some of the House members even accuse the Republican leadership of trying to “bully” a vote out of them, when I see the union lobbyist as much bigger bullies. Republican legislators remain divided and continue to listen to the very group that is fighting against the GOP platform they run on.

President Obama’s Secretary of Education, Arnie Dunkin said, “It’s obvious the system’s broken. Let’s admit it’s broken. Let’s admit it’s dysfunctional. Let’s do something dramatically different and let’s do it now. Let’s fix the problem.” We have groups in Missouri who are offering dramatic alternatives to our failing broken system. Groups who are offering to expand access to high quality education options and improve Missouri’s K-12 education. Men and women dedicated to advance policies that ensure all families in Missouri can choose the right education for their child which include charter schools, virtual schools and ESA’s to name a few. MCPSA, CEAM-TEAM, MERC along with think tanks like the SHOW-Me Institute, Americans for Prosperity, EDChoice all working hard to provide trusted research, tools and expertise that empower parents with the educational freedoms and liberty that our conservative party endorses.

Members of the Missouri House and Senate, are you listening with skeptical ears or are you unwittingly contributing to a blue wave in our state?

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